Catatonic opposition

By Paschos Mandravelis

It is not just the government that is experiencing reform fatigue but also the opposition if we are to go by the outcome of all the initiatives launched by SYRIZA or the country’s unions against reforms, regardless of whether they are deemed good or bad. Mainly it is society that is in a catatonic state, as is often the case with bipolar disorder, shifting from overreaction to complete apathy.

The truth is that the leftist opposition and other like-minded parties have cried wolf so many times over the supposed neoliberal bent of government policy that very few people take them seriously anymore. This country has been through the wringer, and not just now with the bailout agreements that signaled the end of the “Greek dream” but also during the previous period of false prosperity, a time of constant angst. Let us cast our minds back to the reactions against the Athens tram, to the accusations that it would mar the image of the capital’s coastline and to the protesting mayors who lay down on the lines to halt its operations. Then there were the farmers who blocked the national highway with their tractors on so many occasions, cutting the country in two just in order to claim more subsidies. Even certain soccer fans felt justified in closing off parts of the national road network because their team was relegated. Can the constant sit-ins at the country’s universities over the smallest provocation be forgotten? The traffic jams in central Athens because a few dozen protesters wanted to have their say? The violence and damage in the capital’s center in 2008?

The apogee of all this overreaction was in 2010-11 when members of the Indignant movement went after MPs in the street and brutally beat Costis Hatzidakis (even though, as a New Democracy deputy at the time, he had voted against the memorandum), the blockades of the streets around Parliament so MPs could not reach the building, the insults.

Such revolutionary fervor resulted in exhaustion. Now draft laws are not only passed over by the Cabinet (former Prime Minister George Papandreou had ordered his ministers to read all bills twice) but are barely debated in Parliament.

The opposition and its affiliated media continue to shout out the same insults they used in the past: “Sellouts,” “Traitors” “Neoliberals” – the latter being the worst characterization. And draft bills become law (together with some very strange amendments slipped in overnight) without being read or discussed, and a new day, slightly worse than the one before, dawns. It is worse because even if the laws are perfect they cannot be considered to be for the people, and this is something we will pay for dearly.